What If Roads Really Did Have to Pay for Themselves?

pittsburgh_bus.jpgPittsburgh’s bus system is far from the only subsidized transportation in Pennsylvania. Photo: Port Authority

Pittsburgh area residents are reeling from the news this week that their transit agency, the Port Authority of Allegheny County, may cut 35 percent of its total service in January — and raise fares — unless the state of Pennsylvania can come up with new funding for transportation. The massive amputation would come on top of a 15 percent cut three years ago, reducing the transit network to a shadow of its former self.

The funding crisis has intensified since April, when the feds rejected a bid from Governor Ed Rendell to raise money by tolling Interstate 80. The solutions Rendell is floating now, including a tax on oil company profits or raising the state gas tax a few cents, are meeting resistance from rural legislators who don’t like the idea of spending part of the revenues on transit.

Streetsblog Network member the East Busway Blog says bring on the transportation starvation, as long as it cuts both ways:

I am 100% in support of pulling all state
funding from the Port Authority (and SEPTA for that matter) with the
caveat that the state no longer maintain any roads or fund any new
roads. Counties and municipalities would be on
the hook to maintain all existing roads and fund any new road
construction or expansion, to include limited access highways without
the help of state funds.

It’s hard to hypothesize what this would
be like because it is unprecedented.  It’s even harder to imagine how
it would be all funded; not a pretty scenario given our auto-centric
society.

The Busway blogger’s thought experiment, which involves a look at Colorado’s privately financed and managed highway, E-470, and an assortment of new tolls and taxes that motorists would have to absorb, leads him to this conclusion:

So,
once again, anyone willing to trade privatized transit for privatized
roads, I’m all for it.  That way everyone can finally see that no form
of human transportation, be it automotive, rail, air, or bus is
un-subsidized.

More from around the Network: The Congress for the New Urbanism’s report on replacing New Orleans’ Claiborne Expressway with an urban boulevard is generating a stir in St. Louis and Seattle, where the future of downtown freeways is a hot topic. Transit in Utah links back to an important Citiwire story about the benefits of mixed-use development for city tax revenues. And Transit Miami is watchdogging a Florida DOT project that should make a commercial corridor more walkable and bikeable.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Drivers Cover Just 51 Percent of U.S. Road Spending

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There’s a persistent misconception in American culture that transit is a big drain on public coffers while roads conveniently and totally pay for themselves through the magic of gas taxes. And that used to be true — at least for interstate highways, a fraction of the total road network. But that was many, many failed […]